A total of 18 students went on a service trip to Gallup, New Mexico, during their winter break. Father Adam Grelinger, Newman University chaplain, and Emily Simon, assistant director of Campus Ministry traveled with them.
The group traveled to serve for the Little Sisters of the Poor and Missionaries of Charity, two international congregations of women who serve the elderly and poor, as well as St. Bonaventure Mission and School and Sacred Heart School.
The students were split into four groups assigned to different locations. They helped prepare and serve food at a diner that feeds the local community, built relationships with the sisters and helped with morning exercises, organized storage closets and rooms, and spent time with preschoolers at two local schools, among many other service activities.
Newman senior Marie O’Neal was in charge of planning the trip. This was her third time traveling to Gallup and second with a group from Newman. Her bamiliarity with the location helped O’Neal plan with confidence but said she still honed particular skills in the process.
“With a group of that many people, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to planning this type of trip,” she said. “I learned a lot about organization, delegation and allowing myself to be supported by the other students.”
Simon said they asked the students to bring an open mind and a joyful attitude. She noticed a change in all of the students from day one to the last day. The group gathered several times throughout the trip to talk about ups and downs and moments in which they noticed God working in their lives.
“We had definitely formed a community by the time we made the trip home,” explained Simon. “I was so proud of how students set aside anxiety, homesickness, their normal daily routines and their fears in order to serve the community in Gallup.”
Junior Britney Ma had never been on a service trip before but thought it would be a good opportunity to explore her faith and serve others.
Ma said, “The trip really taught me that everybody needs and deserves to be loved, no matter the difficulty. I’ve met so many people on the trip who are dedicated to serving others and it really inspired me to do the same. I found fulfillment knowing that I was able to serve others and to put them before myself. I especially remember that Mother of the Little Sisters told us to ‘never forget the poor.’”
Kelly Mai, a sophomore at Newman, said she was excited to go on the mission trip again.
“I went to Gallup as a freshman last year,” said Mai, “so this was my second time going. Looking back, it was my faith that had really pushed me into going. … I knew that God was giving me subtle hints that I needed to go to Gallup one more time.”
Mai expressed that her love for service has grown over the years and doing God’s work “truly fills my heart with joy.” She was excited to witness a new group of students encountering God’s love and faith in a beautiful way.
“Something that will forever move my heart is being able to see everyone put everything aside so they can serve others, whether young or old. Jesus taught us to seek joy in the uncertain and to be selfless through the examples that were set by the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Missionaries of Charity. From the sisters, we’ve learned to see others in the eyes of God, and to never forget the poor.”
On the way to Gallup, the group stopped in Crown Point, New Mexico, to visit with sisters from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the sponsoring order of Newman University. They also had a little time to do some sightseeing in Santa Fe and enjoy a snow-filled nature hike at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
O’Neal added that the trip was filled was making memories, selfless serving and creating new friendships.
“It was beautiful to see the students work through the adversity they were faced with so they could serve those whom they encountered. During our final sharing session, the students shared their experiences and it was powerful to witness their growth in compassion toward others.”